Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rave Review for the Melting Pot

Last night Rich took me on a "hot date" to the Melting Pot in Old Town Pasadena. Drew gave us a generous gift card to the place for Christmas, and we have been eager to use it. So, when we discovered the kids had plans for the evening, we didn't hesitate to make plans to go!

We had been there a couple of years ago with our friends, the Hoffmans, the night before they packed up their house, their 7 kids and dog and drove to Nashville to live. We talked for hours late at night over pots of cheese fondue and chocolate fondue. It was such a fun time, I knew I would love to come back someday for the full dinner experience.

First of all, I just love the vibe of this place. It is upstairs, very elegant and dark, kind of like a nice steak house but more hip. It feels very festive and special. We were seated by a wall of windows overlooking Colorado Blvd. I felt kind of like I was in New York.

cheese fondue

We ordered one of the four course dinners for two. It started with a cheese fondue of our choice, which came with a bowls full of assorted bread, veggie, and green apple chunks. The apples were especially delicious. They put a pot atop an electric burner that is built into the table, and assemble your fondue right at the table. Our server mixed in several different cheeses ("butter" cheese, fontina, and blue), along with white wine and some green onions. We quickly mopped up every drop of cheese, it was so good!


I had to steal this photo off the internet, as I forgot my camera! (We don't drink wine.)

Next, we had our choice of salads -Rich had the Cobb and I had spinach. As much as I love salad, I was eager for the entree and would have gladly skipped that step! After we dutifully ate our greens, the main event arrived. It was so cool - a platter full of assorted chunks of raw meats and seafood. We had marinated pork, marinated chicken, filet mignon, salmon, shrimp, a lobster tail, and fresh cheese ravioli. They gave us a bowl filled with potatoes, broccoli, and mushrooms as well. The cooking liquid is not oil, but a flavorful broth of your choice. We chose "coq au vin" which was a red wine/broth mixture flavored with garlic and shallots. Each item only took a minute or two to cook in the boiling broth. They also provided a broad selection of delicious sauces to dip everything in. It was such a feast for the eyes and tastebuds with so many options before us. We thoroughly enjoyed everything!

yin yang dessert 1

Then, for the grand finale....chocolate fondue! We chose "yin & yang" which was half dark chocolate swirled with white chocolate. Mmm, is all I can say. SO good. The dippers for this amazing dessert came on an artfully arranged platter which included a slice of cheesecake, chunks of pound cake and brownies, two kinds of amazing marshmallows - a regular marshmallow that was dipped in coconut and the other a chocolate marshmallow dipped in oreo crumbs (my favorite), little cubes of Rice Krispie treats, and fresh banana slices and strawberries. That all quickly disappeared too.

It was such a great dining experience! Everything was a surprise and so fun to eat. Our server did a great job helping us make our choices for everything and the service was excellent. I highly recommend this place if you have an anniversary or special occasion coming up. It would also be fun to go with a group of girlfriends! The food is delicious and the experience is one you won't forget.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

A Study on Humility

I've been reading Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney. What a life changing book! Just this one sentence from Scripture has had a great impact on me:

God is opposed to the proud, yet gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

I have felt truly challenged to mortify pride and put on humility, as well as encouraged to put into practice some of the practical application C.J. offers. Humility requires both purposeful application and a practical strategy, and here are some of C.J.'s recommendations for our mornings:

Reflect on the wonder of the cross.
C.J. believes this is the most important habit. We must survey the wonderful cross of Jesus Christ on which the Prince of Glory died. What else could crush our pride more than the continual realization of why Jesus went to the cross. It was for my sin. A few lines from the hymn When I survey the wondrous cross sum it up: When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. I love this quote by John Stott: "Every time we look at the cross, Christ seems to be saying to us, "I am here because of you. It is your sin I'm bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying."
Begin your day acknowledging your need for God.
This is purposing by grace that our first thought of the day will be an expression of our dependence on God, our need for God, and our confidence in God.
Begin your day expressing gratitude to God.
Michael Ramsey said "Thankfulness is a soil in which pride does not grow." How true! When we greet our Savior with gratitude (rather than grumbling) we can grow in humility. Is this statement true about you?
I am an alert observer of answered prayer and am constantly sweetening my spirit, inviting others to join me in giving thanks.
That's a very good one to ponder and strive for. An ungrateful person is a proud person. There are countless signs of God's provision, presence, kindness and grace in our lives, if we are careful observers. C.J. exhorts us, "Let us recognize every moment that whatever grace we receive from God is so much more than we're worthy of, and indescribably better than the hell we all deserve."
Practice spiritual disciplines.
Prayer, study of God's Word, and worship. I love how these are called disciplines. Discipline is never easy. We must work to accomplish this. So many things pull us in a million different directions all day, but we must discipline ourselves and our time to make these priorities. These things are a daily demonstration and declaration of our dependence and need for God.
Cast your cares on Him.
What a privilege that He loves us so much and doesn't just encourage us that He is there for us, but He commands us to cast our cares on Him. C.J. explains how pride is really at the center of anxiousness and worry. When we are experiencing those, the root issue is that we are trying to be self-sufficient. God wants us to acknowledge our need for Him, be free from care and worry, and be characterized by joy and peace.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

WDW - Baked Oatmeal

baked oatmeal 1

It may look humble, but it's really, really good!

It's probably about time that I post this family favorite. I got this recipe long ago from a friend (thanks, Donna!), and it has been part of our Sunday morning breakfast repertoire ever since. It's really like oatmeal meets cake. It's so delicious, moist, sweet but not too sweet, and actually even rather healthy. I feel like I need to redeem myself after last week's carrot cake. Ahem. And there is still one wicked, evil delicious piece left in the refrigerator!

What I love about this, other than the fact that I can make it with my eyes closed (which is what they are when I am in the kitchen early Sunday morning), is that it's fast and easy to fix and pop into the oven. And, while it bakes, I can continue to get ready for church. It is made in one bowl - no fancy equipment needed - no mess. No exotic ingredients either. If you don't keep unprocessed bran in the house, you can pick up a bag at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. Oat bran or wheat bran is fine. It's cheap, and if you want to know what to do with the leftovers, just ask(I have another yummy recipe I can share with bran).

My whole family loves this and never gets tired of it. It is truly warming, filling and downright comforting. I like to cut it into generous squares - it cuts like a cake. If you like, you can put a little butter on top (or a lot if you are my family), or even drizzle a little half and half over it. Be sure to serve this warm.

This recipe serves 4-6. Leftovers should be refrigerated and re-warmed to eat.

Baked Oatmeal

½ cup oil
½ cup honey
2 eggs

1 cup milk
3 cups old fashioned oats
2 Tbsp. flour (whole wheat or all-purpose)
2 Tbsp. unprocessed bran

2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
brown sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine oil, honey, eggs and milk in a large bowl. Whisk together. Add all remaining ingredients, except brown sugar. Stir well. Pour into a greased 8” square pan. Top with brown sugar (a nice layer). Bake 30-35 minutes. Cool 5 minutes (important - it will fall apart). Cut into squares and serve.

P.S. A little trick - if you measure the oil first, then the honey, the honey will slip right out of the measuring cup!

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Welcome to my remodeled blog! I have officially retired my Country Living…Shadow Hills name and I will henceforth be known as the "e-wife." This is a longtime nickname that Rich has had for me, since I use my computer so much. E = electronic, as in e-mail… I hope none of you just had a revelation there (oh…so THAT’S what the “e” stands for). Anyways, I had my blog custom designed by a darling gal named Jennisa over at Once upon a blog. I just love it, and I hope you all will, too.

My address has changed to Please make a note of it!

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Ooey, Gooey Sunday

blogpicture 468

Neato- check out the reflection in the KitchenAid bowl!

blogpicture 485

I stayed home from church today to keep Emma company. She's progressing well from her wisdom teeth surgery last Friday, but it's hard for her to talk or smile so we thought it best for her to stay home today and avoid social situations! It's been a relaxing weekend watching TV, designing my new blog (coming soon... I can't wait!), and preparing for my upcoming Shepherds' Conference guests next week. The weather has been great to just cozy down.

Of course, this type of low-key weekend puts me right in the mood for baking. I needed to stash some baked goods in the freezer for Shepherds' Conference week - so I had the perfect excuse to make my favorite chocolate chip cookies. Mine are nice and soft - just the way I like them. Be sure not to overbake these babies. I cook them only until there is just the slightest moisture remaining on top - they are barely set when I take them out of the oven.

Karen’s chocolate chip cookies

1 cup butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla

3 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine butter and sugars together in KitchenAid. Beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.

Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix just till combined. Add chocolate chips and mix just until incorporated into the batter.

Scoop dough (I like a cookie scoop for ease and uniformity) onto cookie sheets, 12 per sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Makes approximately 3 dozen.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

WDW - the BEST carrot cake!

carrot cake ewife

If you didn't get your fill of sweets on Valentine's Day, have I ever got a sweet dessert for you. This may pretty much be my most favorite dessert ever. If you like carrot cake, you have got to try my recipe. Anyone can make it - it's a snap. And, of course, everyone knows that carrot cake is healthy. It contains carrots, for crying out loud! I think it even counts as a serving of vegetables. I guess it would be rather healthy, without the frosting...

But, don't even think about making this cake without the insanely delicious cream cheese-powdered sugar frosting. That would be utterly ridiculous. If I find out that you did that, I will block you from reading my blog.

I like to make this in two round cake pans with frosting in between the layers. It's pretty stunning, even though it comes off a little on the rustic side. It makes a downright respectable birthday cake for someone you like a whole lot. If the idea of removing the cakes from the pans and frosting the center freaks you out, just use a 9 x 13 pan. I promise you it will taste just as good, and you will be spared of any panic.

I am making this cake today for a special friend of mine's birthday. Let's just say she's 40-something, although the birthday candles will say 30. That is a tradition I have with my girlfriends. No matter how old we get, we always put the number 30 candles on the cake! We're not in denial or anything like that. We just like the number 30, OK?

A few tips on the cake:

- For the oil, you will see that I use "extra light olive oil". Extra light olive oil (I guess Rachael would call it "ELOO") is a lesser grade and less expensive olive oil. I get it by the jug at Costco. I don't know how widely available it is. The only oils I use are coconut and olive, so this is my choice for baking when a recipe calls for vegetable oil. I read something that all oils except olive oil and coconut oil are already rancid at the store, and the same source convinced me that I am endangering my health by consuming rancid oil. So I banned them from my pantry. ELOO does not have a strong flavor, and is great for baking. It is not called "extra light" because it is lower in calories, only lighter in color and flavor. ELOO is also great for sauteeing, as it has a lower smoke point than regular olive oil.

-If you are going to attempt the two layer round option, here is a recommendation for frosting. First of all, the cake layers will be less crumbly when cold, and will frost easier. However, you do want to remove the layers from the pans when cooled to room temperature after baking. Remove the layers, place on plates, cover and refrigerate. Be smart and put one of the layers on the cake plate you intend to serve it on, so you won't have to move it. This chilling is not a necessary step but helps keeps the crumbs to a minimum.

Be sure to put a lot of frosting in between the layers!

-When frosting, first do a very thin coat to seal in any crumbs. Wipe the knife if crumbs start to appear on it as you go. Then, go back and lay it on heavy, baby.

The cake with its first thin layer of frosting

-I like to top my cake with walnuts, and toasted candied walnuts are even better. I toast the nuts in the oven for about 15 minutes (about 300 degrees), then I toss them into a hot skillet with granulated sugar (as much or as little as you like). Over medium heat, toss and cook the until the sugar melts and walnuts are well coated. Turn onto waxed paper to cool. Break into pieces if they stick together. Great for salads, too. Or just eating out of hand!

-I saw some carrot cupcakes that Ina Garten made, and she topped them with raw carrot curls. Quite pretty. That is another option if you think it sounds good. Just warn everyone not to eat them. Raw carrots have no place on baked goods. Think about it.

And now, without further adieu, here is the recipe.

Carrot Cake

3 cups grated carrots
1 ¼ cups extra light olive oil
3 eggs
¾ cup craisins or raisins
1 tsp. vanilla
1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple in natural juices, undrained
1 cup sugar

2 cups flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 ½ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. baking powder

walnuts for topping, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix carrots through sugar and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour through baking powder.

Add dry to wet and stir just till combined.

Pour into a greased 9 x 13 or two round 9” pans. Bake 25-35 minutes and test for doneness. Do not overbake.

Cool and turn out of pans to cooling rack (for rounds only). Let cool completely before frosting.

6 ozs. softened cream cheese
1/3 cup softened butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. half and half or milk

1 lb. powdered sugar

Combine cream cheese through half and half in mixer bowl. Beat until well combined. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. May add more half and half if necessary.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine's Day

I hope everyone out there had a happy Valentine's day. Mine was so special and unique, I just had to blog about it. Wait until you hear what Rich did for me!

Unbeknownst to me, many weeks in advance, he hatched a plan to farm out our kids to friends and made us reservations at a swanky hotel! Isn't that sweet?

Yeah, that's what happened.

Hee hee.

The truth is, we were heading out to the desert with our trailer Saturday morning to go dirt bike riding for the long holiday weekend(romantic, huh?). We had actually planned to go Friday afternoon, but feared that snow on the 14 freeway would be a bit problematic. So, we waited until the morning and headed out bright and early.

As we were blowing through Lancaster, we had some "issues" with our trailer. Issues that sent our trailer straight to the repair shop. End of trailer for the weekend. OK. Now what to do?

Thankfully, we were caravanning with our dear friends the Tubbs and the Jensens, who were so gracious to us. They let us know there was smoke coming off of our tire (we were clueless), helped Rich remove the tire and diagnose the problem, stuck by us for hours while we figured out what to do, and offered to help us in any and every way.

We decided to take advantage of our gracious friends and pile all of our stuff (clothes, bulky gear, food for 3 days, etc.) into our friends' trailers and make a go of the weekend anyways. Whew!

When we got there, my sister offered to house us in her trailer, but I've been battling a terrible nighttime cough and knew I would either A) contaminate everyone in the trailer while we slept or B) keep everyone awake all night with my annoying cough. Rich wanted to drive home and return the next morning, but I suggested we get a hotel in nearby Lancaster. He finally gave in to my nagging gentle persuasion, so we left the kids to bunk with friends and the two of us drove down to the lovely Hampton Inn. It was a bit comical arriving at 10:30 p.m. on the most romantic night of the year, with a mesh beach bag with clothes thrown in, smelling like campfire and asking for toothbrushes. But, what can you do?

It turned out to be just lovely. And when we returned the next morning to the campsite (after our free buffet breakfast to boot), our friends were quite jealous of our restful night's sleep and the hot showers we had.

And, when we got home late last night, we had no trailer to pull into the driveway and unload. Drew drove home while the rest of us kicked back.

We just may be onto something here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

WDW- Sour Cream Banana Walnut Loaf or Muffins

I am a banana freak... I must have gotten it from my dad. I love fresh bananas most, but have no objections whatsoever to banana cream pie, frozen bananas, banana smoothies, banana pancakes - even that cheesy Nilla Wafer Banana Pudding is great by me. Since I'm the only one who likes bananas in my house (what's not to like?), and I buy the Costco-sized bag, some are always getting too ripe. I usually freeze them (in the peel), so I can make smoothies or breads with them. Bananas are great in baking because they add a natural moistness and sweetness. And frozen banana chunks mixed with a little milk, ice and a little cinnamon and vanilla in the blender tastes like ice cream!

This recipe is more cake-like than bread-like. That is why I like it. The texture is just excellent. I have tried many banana bread recipes and they are kind of spongy... I think the good texture here is due to the massive amounts of sugar and sour cream. They are also super moist. I made the muffins and the loaf and I think I'm more partial to the muffins (I scarfed two down the first time I made this recipe). I like to put some walnuts on top of the batter before baking to let people know there are nuts inside. I'm guessing that if you added chocolate chips to this batter that the result would be quite favorable!

Sour Cream Banana Walnut Muffins or Loaves

¼ cup white sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

¾ cup butter
3 cups white sugar
3 eggs
6 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 (16 oz) container sour cream (light is OK)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking soda
4 ½ cups flour
1 ½ cups chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the ¼ cup sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, bananas, sour cream, vanilla, and cinnamon. Mix in salt, baking soda, and flour. Stir in nuts.

For muffins:
Fill greased muffin cups with batter. Sprinkle evenly with reserved cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake 20-25 minutes. Do not overbake.

For loaves:
Divide batter between two greased 9 x 5 loaf pans and bake for 1 hour- 1 hour 15 minutes, or until tests done.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Observations on Jury Duty

I was called in to serve at Jury Duty yesterday. I pretended that I was a working mom, got dressed up and went downtown. Fortunately, I was not chosen as a juror and fulfilled my duty in one day. I decided that it would be interesting to be a juror someday, perhaps when my kids are both in college. But for now, Jury Duty is just an interruption to all that is on my calendar. I am thankful it only lasted one day.

Here are some observations I made about my experience:

It is very hard to find someone smiling in a courthouse.

I am not the type who can sit around all day.

I am not the type who can sleep in a chair all day.

I am not the type who can sleep on a hard bench in a hallway all day.

A run down snack shop can be a haven.

There are no windows.

You can get a good sampling of 1950's decor, especially the tile in the bathrooms.

If you cannot recognize your name being called in a courtroom, you should not be a juror.

If you cannot find your numbered seat in a courtroom, you should not be a juror.

If you cannot find your juror ID number on your nametag, you should not be a juror.

If you cannot answer "yes" or "no" to a yes or no question you are being asked, you should not be a juror.

(the last four items are from first hand observation)

Those little packets of Oreo cookies in the abovementioned snack shop look really good by 3:00 in the afternoon.

Those little packets of Oreo cookies were totally worth it.

An overcoat is not enough to keep warm in a courthouse.

It is easy to tell the lawyers apart from the clients.

All young women lawyers wear skirt suits with pumps.

You get to see an array of jello colors in the cafeteria.

Young people keep themselves busy with game boys and cell phones.

Older people keep themselves busy by reading books.

It's better to be on jury duty than it is to be a defendant.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

WDW - Chicken Tortilla Soup

If you're like me, you open the freezer, see the frozen chicken and wonder, "what can I do with chicken that I forgot to thaw for dinner?" Well, here's a great and easy recipe that I go to frequently all year long. I got the recipe from my friend Kelly, but I adapted it a little to my liking. Some of the reasons I like this recipe are: it's lowfat and healthy, it's simple, easy and very quick to put together, and it tastes long simmered when it isn't. And, for me, most of the ingredients are always on hand. I made a batch today, to last us a few days while Rich is out of town (I'll just be eating my humble soup while he is eating my favorite pizza in NY-so unfair). It's a flexible recipe, too. I didn't have an onion so I just substituted onion powder when I put in the other seasonings, and substituted black beans instead of the kidney beans. This recipe makes a good sized pot - it probably serves 8-10 generously.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

4 T. extra virgin olive oil
5 large cloves garlic, minced
1 small brown onion, chopped

1 box organic chicken broth (1 qt.)
¾ box organic creamy tomato soup (1 qt. -Trader Joe’s)
3 cans (15 oz. ea) organic tomatoes in juice, undrained, pureed coarsely to leave some tomato chunks (I like to use 'fire roasted' by Muir Glen for 1 or 2 of the cans)
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
4 frozen chicken breast halves, or 8 chicken tenderloins, unthawed (or 2-3 cups cooked chicken)

1 ½ c. organic frozen corn kernels(regular or fire roasted)
1 can (15 oz.) organic kidney beans

In a large pot, sauté the garlic and onion in olive oil until soft. Add all remaining ingredients, except corn and beans, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer approximately 1 hour. Remove chicken, shred, and return to pot. Add corn and beans and simmer 15 min. more. Serve with fresh cilantro, shredded cheese, crumbled tortilla chips, and diced avocado, if you like.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Music Man

Kylie and Emma after the show

Align CenterEmma and Robert Jensen

Stephanie & Lindsay Tubbs

Emma joined E.S.C.A.P.E. Theatre last fall and last weekend was a part of the production they put on of The Music Man. It was a fantastic show and Emma had a blast dancing and singing in the ensemble. It was such a great experience for her - many of her friends were in it as well. Kylie and Taylor Dempsey both had the leading roles (in opposite casts) of Marian Paroo and Harold Hill. They are both so talented and adorable - it was so much fun to see them and many more of our family's friends participate. Emma loved it so much that she has joined the next production - The Wizard of Oz. The show will be late June and rehearsal starts up the beginning of March!

Click here to see some great pictures that the ever-talented Tracy Dodson took during the show! Thanks, Tracy, the pics are awesome!